Stay miles away from the ‘we’re not a business’ rant, no matter how noble your intentions! Sure, it sounds cool to call yourself a social enterprise, but it’ll backfire – without a doubt!
One of William Shakespeare’s most famous, and oft-quoted lines, from the fabled Romeo and Juliet, goes something like this…
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Given that the story is all about the romance between two lovestruck teenagers, this nonchalance about a name might seem well-founded. But, let’s face the facts – this is real life, and there’s a lot a name can do!
A recent conversation I was part of confirmed this belief!
S: Did you hear about this? ConvertKit is being rebranded as Seva. Isn’t that a Sanskrit word?
A: Yep. It is derived from a Sanskrit word that means ‘service’, or rather ‘selfless service’ if you really go deep into the word’s origins. Which makes the whole thing sound a little ridiculous! How can ConvertKit justify doing a selfless service? I mean they do charge for what they offer, so….
S: And the creators who use the platform?
A: Even if we assume that some creators offer their services for free and call it ‘seva’. But does ConvertKit offer its services to those creators for free? No!
S: Okay. But does a service necessarily have to be free to be selfless?
While we didn’t get a chance to complete that conversation, it got me thinking of what exactly made ConvertKit take this drastic step (yeah, I did say drastic)!
More about ConvertKit, then. Started by Nathan Barry, ConvertKit is one of the poster boys for email service providers and a pretty smart one at that. It is specially marketed towards bloggers, podcasters, course creators and other businesses who are courting audiences. ConvertKit is quite a hit within its targeted audience.
Barry has also been incredibly honest about the progress ConvertKit has made – from making around $30k a month in 2015 to having 19500 active customers and doing over $1 million per month in 2018!
Which brings us back to the argument, that ConvertKit definitely doesn’t offer free services! ConvertKit and its creators have a business, and business can never be selfless! Sure, it could have noble intentions, and could even be making a difference to a community or the world at large. But ‘selfless’ is a loaded word, often with sacrificial connotations!
So, what was the rationale behind renaming it to Seva?
As a part of his declaration that ConvertKit was to be renamed, Barry talked about how ConvertKit was different from the rest. He spoke about how ConvertKit has a single filter while setting priorities, and that is ‘to help the creators earn a living’. And that it is just not on the lookout for the next big trick to get someone to buy their software, but to invest heavily in the education needed to make a living as a creator.
He went on to say that the profits earned are always invested in ‘things that matter’ – namely, an annual conference to help creators build the community, giving to local charities, helping communities, and the business too – to help the creators make a living!
It was this emotion, that ConvertKit ‘cared’ not just for the creators, but also their audiences, that led them to rename their brand to ‘Seva’.
Fair Enough! But, Something Went Wrong!
What the founders never realised was that ‘Seva’ has multiple religious implications. At the bottom of it all, was the fact that Seva, meant ‘selfless service’ in the truest sense – service without expecting anything in return!
For the founders, it might have seemed logical – they were helping an entire community of creators reach their audiences and build their lives – as noble a purpose, as it can get!
However, for customers who’d been using ConvertKit, it became a confusing misnomer – after all, Seva would be charging a fee for their services. How on earth could a body that’s making a profit from its services, associate itself with ‘selflessness’?
Not just that. There was a lot of backlash from religious communities, where the word seva has more spiritual connotations – that ‘It is a holy and sacred practice that involves giving generously to others out of love, tied so deeply to spirituality that it cannot be separated from spirituality itself.’
And so… Seva went back to being ConvertKit
It didn’t take long for Barry to realise that renaming his already popular brand had been a major debacle! They had messed up – not only had they confused their existing clients about their brand, but they had also created a furore over their choice of a name that they had taken lightly!
Not to mention the immense loss in marketing spends, branding efforts, re-establishing the connection with their users and audiences!
What’s the takeaway from all this?
It might seem like ConvertKit made a grave error, something that’d have irreversible damages. But, to be honest, it’s all a part and parcel of being an entrepreneur! You will make mistakes, that is inevitable. What’s more important is to be willing to accept them, learn from them, clean the mess and move on, what ConvertKit has rightly done!
As a company, and as a provider of services, it is essential to stay true to your core. Your brand name should represent what you truly are. You may be doing a great job of providing services to your customers that empower them to do better in their respective fields. But to disguise your true nature is, in a way, to misguide them.
A business thrives and grows, thanks to the money it makes by solving a problem for its customers. Parading it as a social intent setup will land you in a hot mess – because it’s not what you are!
ConvertKit is back to being its awesome self – empowering creators to build their lives! And well… we are wiser with the knowledge that a there sure is a lot in a name!